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tv   Andrea Mitchell Reports  MSNBC  January 11, 2013 10:00am-11:00am PST

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trusted everywhere. today on a special edition of andrea mitchell reports, guns in america and the guns of war. ending the conflict in afghanistan and combatting gun violence here at home. two big topics as president obama prepares to hold a news conference minutes from now live from the white house. good day. i am andrea mitchell live in washington where we are awaiting hamid karzai and president obama who will be addressing reporters in the east room following their meetings on the pace of the u.s. troop withdrawals. one big disagreement? the white house suggestion this week of a zero option, a withdrawal of all u.s. troops after 2014 leaving no residual force at all, but, first, the big domestic issue here at home. what to do about gun violence. the white house is pushing back hard on suggestions that they do not believe they can win a ban on assault weapons, and are focussing on other options. in fact, a senior administration official tells me within the
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hour that an assault weapons ban and background checks are both going to be in the final set of proposals that go to the president despite all reports to the controversy. the nra president who met with vice president biden yesterday is drawing a hard line on assault weapons. >> we don't think that a ban on so-called assault weapons, which hasn't worked in the past, is going to work this time. we think manufacture those are feel good proposals and what we need to do is get to the question of why this is happening and what can be done about it. >> congressman tom ridge joins me now. this issue, what to do about guns. you in 1994 as a member of congress, you were just telling me, you voted for the assault weapons ban just days before the republican primary you were running for governor. how badly did the nra hurt you in pennsylvania where the nra is king? >> well, we've always had healthy respect for nra and the second amendment, but it's
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pretty clear to me that after that vote they were able to harness some considerable opposition to my candidacy, which, obviously, as organized as it was, i managed to prevail, and one of the challenges i think the nra needs to confront -- and i'm -- i want to protect the second amendment rights as well, but you take a look at every constitutional amendment, and there are legitimate restrictions and modifications. the best example i can give everybody is freedom of speech. absolutely, but it's not universal. you cannot yell fire in a crowded theater. the right to bare arms under the second amendment allows us to -- is a constitutionally protected right, but, i mean, how far do you go? i think as a veteran and i dare say if you ask any veteran who has used an assault weapon in combat or trained with it, whether or not they think their next door neighbor as well-intentioned as they are needs to be able to buy one across the counter, i think most would say absolutely not. >> you have worked with mayors and police chiefs around the country in your role as homeland
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security secretary and the majority of them feel strongly about the assault -- if the president puts this in the proposal, and i'm told that he will, that he is absolutely committed to the assault weapons ban, reports to the contrary, including what we were reporting earlier based on other information from white house sources, he is going to have the assault weapon ban and he is going to have the background checks in there. is it going to get through congress? >> i think it will. i think the mood of the nation has changed. i think the fact that they were able to do it back in 1994, and let's -- we have to be honest with one another. this is a very important step, but it's only the first step that the country must take if we're going to deal with the issue of gun violence. during the course of this discussion, nobody is talking to those 25 to 30 people a day who get killed in urban america on one-on-one. we're not talking about mental health. there are a lot of other issues. we haven't dealt with a lot of the other cultural issues. it's an important first step,
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but we shouldn't kid ourselves that the challenge is met simply with an assault weapon ban. >> how would newtown change if it did? >> i hope it did, but i thait thought columbine would, and then you thought the disaster -- the horror associated with aurora, colorado in the theater and -- >> and virginia tech. >> virginia tech. >> mental health issues that were recognizable since the early part of his life. somehow that information was not transmitted. some people saw the mental health issues. at the epicenter of this, that has not been discussed too much lately is america's response be not to socially awkward men normally, but the whole mental health issue, and i think that's really important for us to continue the discussion once we could be on the assault weapon ban. >> and your advice to the president would be? >> well, i -- the assault weapon ban, high capacity weapons. i mean, there's no reason for
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people to have those. i think going for background checks. it's a statistic. i don't know if it's completely accurate. 40% of the weapons are done so without -- >> i've heard it's as high as 50%. >> i think a background check is very appropriate. it was appropriate then. it is now, and hopefully it will be enough support to -- for that kind of approach, but let's not kid ourselves. the debate must continue about urban violence, one-on-one violence, culture issues, and as well as mental health issues. >> governor tom ridge, it's always a pleasure. thank you very much for coming in. >> pleasure to be here. >> one of the big topics facing chuck hagel, if he is confirmed as defense secretary, is how to bind down the war in afghanistan. that's also the key issue today between president obama and hamid karzai in their meetings. despite his request for a large american residual force after 2014, karzai recently told nbc's atia that afghan troops are ready to take over. >> on the question of the readiness, the preparedness of
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the afghan security forces, they are quite ready. i can say with confidence to handle the security of the country, the trust of this country and to receive the full transition to them in 2014, rather, in 2013 and to have the departure of the foreign forces from afghanistan completed in 2014. zoom a strong advocate for chuck hagel for the pentagon job. general, welcome. thank you very much. >> nice to be with you. thank you. >> tell me why you think chuck hagel is the right person for this job despite all the controversy that has been raised about what he said about israel in the past and iran in the
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past, criticisms of some of his other statements certainly the statements about gay americans. >> i think for two, maybe three reasons. first of all, he is a very solid, sound thinker. he has been involved in these matters for decades. he comes at decisions by analysis. not by a mee jerk support for this philosophy or that, but what is best for the united states. that's a wonderful attitude, and i think he and john kerry have similar points of view, and they'll be a good team. but, secondly, he is -- he would be the first secretary of defense to have served as an enlisted man in the trenches. from uso to veterans administration, he understands
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the political and human problems in a way that no other secretary has. >> do you think that he has the experience and the skill to get his arms around that pentagon bureaucracy and all the pork that's embedded in it at a time when facing the sequester, we've had warnings from general dempsey and, of course, from leon panetta that we are facing the potential hollowing out of the force and a real national security dilemma. >> i think to me he is an example of one of the best teams we ever had in defense, which was laird and packard, and to me -- >> you mean david packard and melvin laird. >> david packard and melvin laird, yes. he knows the policy chuck hagel knows the policy. his deputy right now, ash carter, is superb. that's an unbeatable team. doesn't have to know everything, and he knows a part of the defense department no other secretary has, which is how the
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enlisted men live and think. >> he clearly has a great affection for john brennan and certainly for chuck hagel, and perhaps not as close with john kerry. >> the president's problem with dealing with any issue is making decisions on the basis of imperfect information. you never know as much as you would like to know about a situation. he appreciates different perspectives and different evaluations that give him the confidence that all of the angles have been discussed to the point that they can, and that he goes in to making a
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decision based on the best possible information, and i think that's what chuck hagel will give him. >> donald, i want to ask you about your close friend, co-author, the man you served, george herbert walker bush. how is president bush doing? >> i think he is doing much better now. >> that's good to hear. >> he had some respiratory problems that they were very afraid would go into a serious form of pneumonia. i talked to him a few days ago, and is he his old self sdwloosh how are his spirits? >> his spirits are fine. >> well, please convey our very best wishes. the whole country is pulling for him to get out of that hospital and to be back in good form again. >> i would be delight, and i will do it today. >> thank you. thank you again. great to see you, general.
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>> thank you. >> nbc's atia covers afghanistan for nbc news from kabul, but today she joins us from new york city. atia, you have been traveling in and out of afghanistan since 2005. you've been living there now since 2008. there's a real difference in perspective from president karzai and president obama. it isn't the first time, but there really is a different attitude towards what happens in 2014. >> his chief of staff said that -- many american official wills say that's a delusional perspective actually president karzai himself said he is a little more grounded when it comes to that. he knows that america may actually abandon afghanistan, and he is trying to put measures into place at the moment to see what afghanistan can do if america does abandon them.
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for many years from u.s. ambassadors through u.s. military officers in afghanistan, they have said over and over again to the afghan people that we will not abandon you, but the realistic prospect is that there might not be much of a u.s. presence beyond 2014, and this is something that the afghan officials have to deal with, and they're trying to figure out what they can do if america does, in fact, completely leave afghanistan. they may leave some diplomats behind, but there may not be a military presence, at least nowhere near what we've even so in the past. >> and minutes from now, of course, president obama and president karzai are going to be delivering their joined statements on the future of the u.s. role in afghanistan, and joining me now as well, steven clemons, washington editor at large for "the atlantic" and chris alissa, managing editor of post and or daily fix as well. first to you, chris. >> sure. >> this has been a tense relationship and it involves the region. i want to ask steve as well
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about your deep knowledge of afghanistan and pakistan and the other bordering states. >> this is one that has taken a back burner. we are not that far removed from the election. the election was about by and large nothing more than the economy and which side could do it better. as a result almost every other issue gets pushed to the side, but we have, you know -- there are realtime tables in place in afghanistan about what we have pledged to do, what we will do. you talk about chuck hagel. what chuck hagel's role in all of that, if et wants to be secretary of defense. it's a complicated issue, and it's more complicated politically, andrea, simply because the american public -- this happened in iraq. it's clearly happening in afghanistan. the american public has tired of our involvement in these conflicts. this is not something new.
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this is something that has been long and coming. if you look at the history in polling at least of when that happens, public opinion almost never sort of sways back up to all of a sudden be supportive and think this was a battle worth fighting and those sorts of things. it's dangerous ground for any politician because of that. >> we are seeing a change with chuck hagel. this is an obama, hagel foreign policy going forward as well as john kerry, who you have three men there who really are not as committed, hardly, to overseas engagement, and it gets more complicated when you have so many insider attacks, the green on blue attacks, that that has certainly changed the public attitude. >> i think they are committed to overseas engagement, but smart overseas engagement as opposed to reckless overseas engagement. i think that people like hagel look at afghanistan as a trap of american power rather than a way american power was being leveraged in the world. i would argue that though we
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haven't talked about it in iran, but i think part of the calculus is that they will make more headway in iran and potential negotiations the more iran thinks that we're loosening up resources to potentially apply. that's the strategic game going on. on the political side, chris is right. it was very interesting that before the debt ceiling debate last time when we came to the edge of crisis, grover norquist was out telling everyone, you know, we're spending $120 billion in a country with $14 billion of gdp, and grover norquist put a fissure down conservative support for the afghanistan war. when that happened, you had progressives against it. that really changed the dynamic. we -- i helped run the afghanistan study group, and our minimum threshold we thought was around 20,000 residual troops. it's astounding to see the president say no on 15,000. now john allen has come out, general john allen, with his scenarios all basically less than 9,000 troops. >> it could be the zero option. >> well, that's more about sending karzai a signal.
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>> it's a bargaining chip. >> that you don't -- there's a certain amount of america bashing that we'll tolerate. he needs to survive. he can't survive without troops. those troops are there to prevent an overthrow of the kabul government after we draw down. >> we talk about his plans for trying to dictate who his successor is since he is term limited. what are the choices? >> i think any analyst will have to assume that no matter what he says, his successor who comes in will largely be a proxy of karzai. i think we'll be looking at putin, medvedev situation. >> he was mentioning grover and defense spending. i still remember -- i remember we talked about this frequently when it happened. haley barbour, not exactly a radical in the republican party, saying we may -- this was when he was thinking about maybe running for president and sort of testing the waters, so it was a few years back, but saying
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we're going to have to look at how much we spend overseas. we're going to have look at our involvement. i mean, five years ago even in the republican party was not something you would ever hear. much less from someone who is a pillar of sort of the republican establishment like haley barbour. that to me said the way these sacred cows, the way we think about these things, we will be changing as we move forward, whoever winds up being the president in the next four years. it's remarkable. >> what i understand, though, are we making ourselves vulnerable in pakistan -- more vulnerabling than we already are in pakistan as they see us pulling out potentially all of our troops? >> pakistan is a complicated issue, and it is the strategic issue. not afghanistan. pakistan is a nuclear armed country. many of the scenarios we've always looked at doom's day scenarios in which really awful things could happen have always been the india, pakistan fault line, and the notion that i think john mccain and others have carried is that if we draw down forces in afghanistan, we
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reduce our leverage with pakistan. i completely disagree. the more your forces are drawn down in afghanistan, the more leverage you actually have to shape the choices pakistan may make, but we're not going to dominate pakistan. it's going to be a constant relationship that's up and down, part seduction and just doing battle with one another, and pakistan's survivability as a nation is going to, in part, be dependent on itsibility to shape where the taliban goes because, of course, its internal issue is that the afghan taliban began to actually seed and grow in insurgency inside pakistan that they had to deal with, and i think that's fundamental. the troops on the ground don't necessarily help us solve that problem. other issues, money and other elements of state, will help us influence pakistan. >> what do we know about conversations between the karzai regime and the taliban, the negotiations in france? >> well, president karzai during our interview said that they are currently still in negotiations and talking to the taliban, but
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there hasn't been any proof that they actually have been because the taliban themselves they send emails and talk to us on the phone as journalists and they tell us that in no way will they talk to what they call the puppet regime of america, referring to president karzai in his government, but the afghan officials that we speak to, they say that they are currently talking to the taliban, but they may be. we just don't know what level of the taliban that they're talking to. >> i know that rachel maddow was reporting the other night of a very elaborate chateau in france where these meetings were taking place. there were police circling the place, and she said there had been several meetings in the last couple of weeks between taliban at some level and karzai officials. >> there are different tracks, and that may very well be one track that the taliban sht an organized monolithic franchise. there's a track in qatar, and there is also, i think one of the questions which often gets
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sort of dealt with in a cliched way that you can't deal with the taliban without also simultaneously dealing with pakistan. also on the table i've talked to some former taliban commanders in doha that come in and out that are extremely frustrated with pakistan. mohammed elbaradar and how he has been treated and how he is kept out of the network of negotiations, so i know that the white house and doug lou have been in favor -- >> i want to do record keeping here. chris with the political side of your brain, which is that jay rockefeller -- >> it's most of my brain. >> five-term senator and an extraordinary leader from west virginia announced that he isn't going to run for another term. he started out as a visa volunteer in, you know, appalachiana coming from the rockefeller. he is john d. rockefeller's -- >> this is the rockefeller of
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the rockefeller. >> he is the fourth. you know, he is -- i have to just say an extraordinary senator. i covered him as a senator. i know him as well, you know, in washington all of these years, and this is another great loss for the old guard of the senate. he was the commerce chairman. he was the intelligence chairman. he knew how to work across party lines. he has been a useful -- >> there's been a rockefeller in office since 1957. >> win tlop rockefeller. >> in 2015 it looks like it will be at least for the foreseeable future. this is one of our great -- whether you agree with john rockefeller, but this is one of our great political families in the same way that the kennedys and the bushes and the clirns, these are the pillars of our political world. i have been struck. you have made the point that i was going to make.
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the amount of turnover in the senate in the last three or four election cycles is remarkable, and it's not even just sort of turnover of freshman loses. it's the big dogs of the senate. ted kennedy passing away. dick louinger losing in a primary. rockefeller now. you know, kent kron are aed, someone who had been the touch stone on budget issues. >> john kerry going to the state department. you know, you really -- it's a very different place now. i do this for a living, but it's a remarkable thing to me the turnover. the senate has always been the place where it was kind of like if you got elected there, you were there for a while. even west virginia on my mind. john -- these are people who had been in these offices for an extremely long time, and in the last four years we have lost them either to they passed away or -- >> not being the same headliner, was there for 30 years, and he is tired of the climate. he is tired of the climate, tired of not --
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>> tired of the filibusters that permits things to be filibustered, you know, 60 votes are required even to get something to the floor to be debated. >> they don't even have to -- >> the thing about the filibuster is you don't have to go and actually filibuster. i mean, that's the issue. it's not mr. smith goes to washington where you are reading the phone book, and it's really an endurance challenge. it's the threat of the filibuster, and the other thing is steve made me think of olympia snow. i mean, this is someone who would have been re-elected with 75% of the vote. and decided she didn't want to be there. >> policy expertise, which is very deep. when president obama was in hawaii and he was flying back the other night, he brought back with him the newly appointed successor to dan inoye on air for one back with him. barack obama walked back in the back of the plane and basically told the new senator spend two hours with jeff binghamton and learn what you can because we
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need that policy expertise brought back because the place isn't really royaling in that right now. >> let me ask atia about the karzai relationship with the united states as well because you've had moments in the past where john kerry went over as an informal envoy as foreign relations chair to try to patch things over. previous trips where senator kerry and senator louinger were jack reid were going to the -- to kabul to try to talk to karzai. that's been a sort of work in progress. hasn't quite delivered the way they had hoped. >> no. the relationship with president karzai in washington has been a very strained relationship, but that's no secret. it's been very tumultouos. the last american that president karzai really fully trusted was actually fired pretty much by president obama. he accepted general stanley mcchrystal's resignation after that article in "rolling stone making sfwleen."
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that was literally the last person that president karzai was open to and talked to, and, in fact, he said himself that his two favorite generals in the last 12 years, one was general mcchrystal and the other was general mcneil. after that we've seen him uneasy when it comes to the commanding jonathans in afghanistan, including general petraeus and during our interview he had a coded message. when i asked him about the general petraeus scandal, i said away went through your mind when you heard about the scandal. he said i thought about the thousands and thousands of vine trees that were destroyed and the people that suffered. that was a coded message to say that general petraeus bulldozed kandahar, which is his home province, so he hasn't trusted the americans that have come through. he has respected certain senators, including senators mccain, lieberman, and graham who have come to afghanistan at least yearly since the start of the war, but at the same time it doesn't necessarily mean that he is friends with them. >> of course, chuck hagel is going to have to somehow win over mccain and graham. at least if he is going to not
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skate through on a very, very narrow vote. i want to share with you as we talk, all of you, about the senate that was and the senate that is evolving. this is a picture that shows how they bonded. i mean, if that picture to me -- that's the heart building. looks like -- >> barack obama there. >> barack obama and chuck hagel and dick luger, the first person who took president, then senator obama, to moscow and took him on his first foreign trip. chuck hagel who went with him in 2008. importantly -- >> along with jack reid. >> along with jack reid. he didn't endorse president obama, but he was pretty forward leaning in that. >> thets a great picture of the president with dick luger and senator hagel. there's another great picture when chuck hagel came in on halloween and put on a mask that was actually a joe biden mask that said biden for president, and he said vote for me. this was in the committee. it was m committee. my blog at the time got the first picture out of that, and
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it's out on the internet everywhere, but there was a camaraderie between different players. >> across party lines. >> i remind everybody, my blog at the time helped organize at least some of the questions asked about john bolton after john bolten had been proposed by the president to serve as u.n. ambassador. in the foreign relations committee chuck hagel was soltdly behind john bolton. people don't remember that. he voted for him. it was george voinovich and later lincoln chafee and others. lamar alexander. these are -- >> you are talking about the republican senate -- >> judiciaries, smart. lamar alexander, what a great senator. ran for president. and they're still there, but that -- they are a closely extinct breed of judicious largely centrist very publicly committed kind of people that don't get engaged with irrelevant flamboyant games. >> do you think that john mccain will end up voting for chuck hagel? >> i don't know if he will or
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won't, but i know when i believe that chuck hagel will probably be confirmed and that they will find a way back to a friendship or at least a good relationship. >> because of the vietnam experience. >> i think that most people disagree. i believe that chuck shum schumer will vote for chuck hagel. >> let's just point out that we were -- when you see a picture of the east room of the white house, the press corps awaiting, right now hamid karzai and president obama are having lunch, and when they come out, we were told it would be at 1:15. if they come out, they will each make statements and answer questions. clearly the president is also going to be asked about domestic issues. i would suspect guns given that that is one of the prime issues that the white house is dealing with right now as joe biden continues meetings on the gun issue today. chris alissa, when we talk about president obama and what he is facing in changing his team, when david gregory asked on
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"meet the press" about hagel, and i think we all expected that the number three democrat in the senate would say, okay, great choice. he said, well, not so much. we'll have to wait to see what happens at the hearing, or something like that. chuck todd and i were sitting at the table on "meet the press" and said whoa. >> we got a 33 second answer, which is never good because you want it to be yes if are you president obama. i'm with steve on this for this reason. i don't think if chuck schumer had no other political consideration to make, i don't think he would vote for chuck hagel. honestly. i think hagel's statements on israel and the jewish lobby don't do not sit well with chuck schumer. he is not the only one, but they don't sit well with chuck schumer. he understands the role and influence he has within the senate democratic caucus, and sort of what him saying no would mean. of course, politics doesn't exist in a vacuum. we all know that. i think chuck schumer's desire to not blemish the pick of the president of his party on
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defense -- this is not a small bore cabinet position. this is a big one. this is a biggy. i think ultimately unless chuck hagel in his meeting, his one-on-one meeting with schumer, something in the confirmation hearing, something disqualified comes out. i think this will be a kind of hold your nose and vote for it because ultimately his loyalty to president obama is higher than his desire. >> it will be an anguished swroet. >> he elizabeth be thrilled to do it, and he will probably not talk a lot about it. he will say hi. >> you don't get a pass on this one if you are a democratic senator in the leadership. >> not as defense secretary, and not if you are chuck schumer, and you have, by all accounts, the inside track to be the next leader of the senate when harry reid decides to -- >> there's a lot of equities on the table, and -- >> this is not a rank and file democrat getting to make theron -- >> hold that thought, gentlemen, and we're going to take a quick break, and then be back with the president and president karzai. you're watching "andrea mitchell reports" only on msnbc.
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welcome back. as you can see, the east room of the white house, we are waiting for president obama and president karzai of afghanistan, but the news out of this announcement is going to be that they have decided to, as they put it, slightly increase, speed up the acceleration of afghanistan taking overcome bat operations, and the u.s. stepping back. lot of issues remain, including the same issues we saw in iraq which include whether or not american forces have legal protection and immunity from various domestic political and criminal actions. that would be a requirement before the u.s. would leave forces behind. still, here at the table with me chris alissa from the washington post, and steve clemons from the atlantic. let's talk about the pace of withdrawal and the ability of a second term barack obama to stand up to the generals and we
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know that general allen advised, you know, all the way up 20,000 plus troops. >> keep as much there as long as possible. >> as long as possible. and we saw the way the president had to sort of cut the baby in half and deal with bob gates, his former defense secretary, and others certainly in the military arguing for a larger presence. petraeus, mcchrystal, and the other generals of the time. this time president obama seems empowered to float a bargaining chip with karzai, float a much smaller presence than the military wanted, steve. >> i think that's right. it is in this joint statement from the white house and president karzai that you the scope and nature of any possible post-2014 u.s. presence, legal protects for u.s. forces, and security cooperation be specified in the bilateral security agreement. that is the qualifier, and the most important line in here that will determine the level of troops that stay or go. it's a replay of what happened in iraq. >> if we leave, nato is out. i mean, the nato countries are
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not going to stay there a second war. >> they're leaving anyway. >> anyway. they're looking for any -- >> that's absolutely right. i think that the president is, look, the surge and the president's surge, i talk a lot with national security council people at the time. they need to give a gut fourchlg the taliban, to try to reshape the environment there, and to try to maneuver the various players in the region towards negotiated outcome because there was no military outcome. that seems not to have gone well. in the absence of that, what is the strategic course? the strategic course is now to minimize american vulnerability in these areas. not walk afrom afghanistan, as has happened in the past. try to give afghanistan some choices, but for security and to try to get away from what i think is the free riding problem where president obama is free riding on security, and not moving governments forward to get other stake holding in the rest of the country. i think the president has moved
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that security blanket in part to change the dynamic in the region. he is also committed to rebalancing attention on asia, and he is taking military forces out should they be needed for iran and other matters. this is a very shrewd, smart move that i think the wlous is making. >> now, what we're seeing here, as well, is that they -- we just -- we're told that there's a two-minute warning. they do not want to remain there, but they're not willing to acknowledge, nor should they, given the sensitivities and the pain and suffering and the horrific loss on all sides. those 30,000 marines were exposed to, you know, grievous harm, and many lives were lost, and it didn't do what the generals had hoped for.
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>> that's not something they will ever acknowledge because it delegitimatizes the loss of those people. you may get a faster transition from a purely political perspective, this is what the obama administration would like. now, how the transition goes and we've seen all this in iraq before and it didn't play out as everyone thought. the idea that there is a large number of troops in afghanistan or any number of troops in afghanistan frankly is something that the average person in the united states does not understand and does not think needs to keep happening. stan mcchrystal is coming on our show on monday, and his take will be interesting indeed. well timed. he has a new book out, but we want to talk to him about what's happening right now in afghanistan. you see a second term barack obama, much more confident, less
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intimated by the generals, feeling that he has a potential defense secretary who could stand up to the generals because he is a former enlisted man. you know chuck hagel well. this is a young man that enlisted for vietnam, was given the assignment of going to nato in germany, and said no, i want to go to vietnam, and here they're walking in, so we're going to hear from president obama and hamid karzai as they approach the press corps to make their statements. >> good afternoon, every. please take a seat. it is my pleasure to welcome president karzai back to the white house as well as his delegation. a city that reflects the friendship between our peoples, including many afghan-americans, as well as the karzai family.
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so, mr. president, welcome. we meet at a critical moment. the 33,000 forces have served with honor. they completed their mission, as promised, returned home this past fall. the transition is well underway. soon nearly 0% of afghans will live in areas where afghan forces are in the lead for their own security. this year we'll mark another milestone. afghan forces will take the lead for security across the entire country. by the end of next year, 2014, the transition will be complete. afghans will have full responsibility for their security and this war will come to a responsible end. this progress is only possible because the incredible sacrifices of our troops and our diplomats, the forces of our
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many coalition partners, and the afghan people who have endured extraordinary hardships. in this war, more than 2,000 of mesh's sons and daughters have given their lives. these are patriot that is we honor today, tomorrow, and forever. as we announced today, the next month i will present our nation's highest military decoration, the medal of honor to staff sergeant clinton romashay for his heroic service in afghanistan. today because of the courage of our citizens, president karzai and i have been able to review our shared strategy. with the devastating blows we've struck against al qaeda, our core objective, the reason we went to war in the first place is now within reach. insuring that collide could never again use afghanistan to launch attacks against our country. at the same time we pushed the
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taliban out of their strongholds. today most major cities and most afghans are more secure and insurgents have continued to lose territory. meanwhile, afghan forces continue to grow stronger. as planned, some 352,000 afghan soldiers and police are now in training or on duty. most missions are already being led by afghan forces. and of all the men and women in uniform in afghanistan the vast majority are afghans who are fighting and dying for their country every day. we still face significant challenges. because this progress, our transition is on track. at the nato summit last year we agreed with our coalition partners that afghan forces will take the lead for security in mid-2013. president karzai and his team have been for for several days. we've shared vision for how we're going to move ahead. we've consulted with our
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coalition partners, and we will continue to do so. today we agreed as president karzai announces the transition, troops will move to a support role this spring. our troops will continue to fight look side afghans when needed, but let me say it is plainly as i can. starting this spring our troops will have a different mission. training, advising, assisting afghan forces. it will be an historic moment and another step toward full afghan sovereignty, something i know that president karzai cares deeply about, as do the afghan people. this sets the stage to reduce our presence in afghanistan to roughly 66,000 u.s. troops. i have pledged we'll continue to bring our forces home at a steady pace and in the coming months i'll announce the next
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phase of our drawdown. a responsible drawdown that protects the gains our troops have made. president karzai and i also discussed the nature of our security cooperation after 2014. they will be guided by our respect for afghan sovereignty, and our long-term tasks that will be very specific and very narrow rsh first, training and assisting afghan forces, and, second, targeting counterterrorism missions -- targeted terrorism missions against ae al qaeda and its affiliates. our discussions will focus on how best to achieve these two tasks after 2014 and it's our hope that we can reach an agreement this year. ultimately security gains must be matched by political progress, so we recommitted our nations to a reconciliation process between the afghan government and the taliban. president karzai updated me on the afghan government's road map
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to peace, and today we agreed that this process should be advanced by the opening of a taliban office to facilitate talks. reconciliation also requires constructive support from across the region, including pakistan. we welcome recent steps that have been taken in that regard, and we'll look for more tangible steps because a stable and secure afghanistan is in the interest not only of the afghan people and the united states, but of the entire region. finally, we reaffirmed the strategic partnership we signed last year in kabul. an enduring partnership between two sovereign nations. this includes deepening ties of trade, commerce, strengthening institutions, development, education, and opportunities for all afghans. men and women, boys and girls. this sends a clear message to afghans and to the region as afghans stand up, they will not stand alone. the united states and the world stands with them.
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now, let me close by saying that this continues to be a very difficult mission. our forces continue to serve and make tremendous sacrifices every day. the afghan people make significant sacrifices every day. afghan forces still need to grow stronger. we remain vigilant against insider attacks. lasting peace and security will require governance and development that delivers for the afghan people and an end to safe havens for al qaeda and its ilk. all this will continue to be our work. make no mistake, our path is clear, and we are moving forward. every day more afghans are stepping up and taking responsibility for their own security, and as they do, our troops will come home. next year this long war will come to a responsible end. president karzai, i thank you and your delegation for the progress we've made together and for your commitment to the goals that we share. a strong and sovereign
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afghanistan where afghans find security, peace, prosperity, and dignity, and in pursuit of that future, afghanistan will have a long-term partner in the united states of america. mr. president. >> thank you very much for that warm welcome to me and the afghan delegation on this visit to washington and for pairing with us, as i mentioned during our talks, in the prayer house with all the crowds that we have there. the president and i discussed today in great detail all the relevant issues between the two countries. i was happy to see that we have made progress on some of the
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important issues for afghanistan, including afghan sovereignty. we agreed on the complete return of detention centers and detainees to afghan sovereignty. we also discussed all issues of appear began security. i'm very happy to hear from the president as we also discussed it earlier that many spring this year the afghan forces will be fully responsible for providing security and protection to the afghan people and that the international forces, the american forces, will be no longer -- that the task will be
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that of the afghan forces to provide for the afghan people in security and protection. that we also agreed on the steps that you should be taking to -- in the peace process, which is of highest priority to afghanistan. we agreed on allowing the taliban office in qatar, in doha, where the taliban will engage in direct talks with the representatives of the afghan high council for peace where we will be seeking the help of relevant regional countries, including pakistan. we'll be trying our best together with the united states and our other allies to return peace and stability to
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afghanistan as soon as possible, and employing all the means that we have within our power to do that so the afghan people can live in and work for their prosperity and educate their children. the president and i also discussed the economic transition in afghanistan and all that entails for afghanistan. once the transition to afghan forces is completed, once the bulk of the international forces have withdrawn from afghanistan, we hope that the dividends of that transition, economically to afghanistan, will be beneficial to the afghan people and will not have adverse affects on afghan economy and the prosperity that we have gained in the past many years. we also discussed the issue of election in afghanistan and the importance of election for the afghan people and with the hope that we'll be conducting a free and fair election in afghanistan
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where our friends in the international community, in particular, the united states will be assisting in conducting those elections. of course, where afghanistan will have the right environment for conducting elections without interference and without undue concern in that regard for the afghan people. we also discuss ed in a bit of detail and in the environment that we have all aspects of the bilateral security agreement between afghanistan and the united states and i informed the president that the afghan people are really in the lara jurga we called for the strategic partnership agreement between us and the united states have given
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their approval to this relationship and they value it as one that's good for afghanistan. so in that context, the bilateral agreement is one that the afghan people approve and i'm sure we will conduct it in detail where both the interests of the united states and the interests of afghanistan will be kept in mind. we had a number of other issues also to talk about. during our conversations, and perhaps many times in that conversation, beginning with the conversation, of course, i thanked the president for the help that the united states has given to afghan people, for all that we have gained in the past ten years and that those gains will be kept by any standard while we are working for peace and stability in afghanistan, including respect for afghan constitution. i also thanked the president and
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endorsed with him the sacrifices of american men and women in uniform and those of other countries. accordingly, i also informed president obama of the sacrifices of the afghan people, of the immense sacrifices of the afghan people in the past ten years, both for the service men and of the afghan people. i'll be going back to afghanistan this evening to bring to the afghan people the news of afghanistan standing shoulder to shoulder with america as a sovereign, independent country. but in cooperation and in partnership. thank you, mr. president, for the hospitality. >> thank you very much, mr. president. okay.
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we have two questions each i think from u.s. and afghan press. we'll start with scott wilson of "the washington post." >> thank you, mr. president, president karzai. mr. president, does moving up the deadline for the transition to an afghan security role in the spring mean you're winding down u.s. troops faster than you expected this year? and specifically, as possible, how many troops do you expect to leave in afghanistan beyond 2014 for the two missions you outlined and would you consider leaving any troops in afghanistan beyond that kate without an immunity agreement for their actions? and president karzai, you've spoken often about the threat the american presence in afghanistan poses to your nation's sovereignty but i wonder if you're working on an agreement to leave some troops in afghanistan after the 2014 and how many troops you would accept after that time. thank you.
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>> okay. >> scott, our first task has been to meet the transition plan that we set first in lisbon, then in chicago. and because of the progress that's been made by our troops, because of the progress that's been made in terms of afghan security forces, their capacity to take the lead, we are able to meet those goals and accelerate them somewhat. so, let me repeat. what's going to happen this spring is that afghans will be in the lead throughout the country. that doesn't mean that coalition forces including u.s. forces are no longer fighting. they will still be fighting alongside afghan troops. it does mean, though, that afghans will have taken the lead and our presence, the nature of our work, will be different. we will be in a training,
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assisting, advising role. obviously, we'll still have troops there and that means that our men and women will still be in harm's way. that there will still be need for force protection. you know, the environment is going to still be very dangerous. but what we have seen is that afghan soldiers are stepping up at great risk to themselves. and that allows us then to make the transition during the spring. what that translates in to precisely in terms of how this drawdown of u.s. troop proceeds is something that isn't yet fully determined. i'm going to be over the coming weeks getting recommendations from general allen and other commanders on the ground. they will be designing and shaping a responsible plan to make sure that we're not losing
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the gains that have been made to make sure we near a position to support afghan units when they're in theater. and to make sure that our folks are also protected even as we're drawing down so i can't give you a precise number at this point. i'll probably make a separate announcement once i have gotten recommendations from troops -- from the generals and our commanders in terms of what that drawdown might look like. with respect to post 2014, we have got two goals and our main conversation today was establishing a meeting of the minds in terms of what those goals would be with the follow on presence of u.s. troops. number one, to train, assist and advise afghan forces to that they can maintain their own security. number two, making sure that we
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can continue to go after remnants of al qaeda or other affiliates that might threaten our homeland. that's a very limited mission. and it is not one that would require the same kind of footprint, obviously, that we have had over the last ten years in afghanistan. similar to the issue of drawdown, i'm still getting recommendations from the pentagon and our commanders on the ground in terms of what they would look like. and when we have more information about that, i will be describing that the american people. i think president karzai's primary concern -- and obviously you'll hear directly from him, is making sure that afghan sovereignty is respected and if we have a follow on force of any sort past 2014, it's got to be at the invitation of the afghan government
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